Here's my newest YouTube video, Critique of Inmendham's Radical Pessimism. It raises different objections to antinatalism from those you'll find in my article on the subject. This video was supposed to be up a few days ago, but I had to perform Herculean labours to overcome the software obstacles that were thrown in my way. I shan't bore you with the details of that saga. Needless to say, I performed those labours because I'm proud of this video—it's 57 minutes too!—and I wanted someone other than me to see it.
My main source of info on Inmendham's extreme pessimism is a two-part YouTube dialogue between him and someone I call "the psychologist," because I couldn't remember his name. This other person is Corey Anton and he's more of a philosopher than a psychologist. He works in communication theory, semiotics, and phenomenology, among some other areas.
Also, I define "antinatalism" (AN) early on in the video. Strictly speaking, AN is just the view that we shouldn't have children, because doing so is immoral, given that the suffering which is produced outweighs the pleasure. The essence of AN, though, is extreme pessimism on all fronts and this pessimism has some other implications. For example, it should be just as immoral to allow all of the other animal species to go on reproducing, since they suffer too. So as long as we could find some way to kill all life relatively painlessly, that immoral act would produce the superior good of ending all of the future suffering that would have otherwise happened. Thus, AN is really about the purposeful termination of all life, as I see it. That's what's at stake when we contemplate this most extreme kind of pessimism.
Lastly, at around the 32 minute mark the video got divided into two parts and I lost a half a second of audio. The full sentence that gets partially cut out there is "No one knows whether there's more pain than pleasure."
I've also added a way to register with this blog so you'll get emails alerting you to new posts. I've tested it out and it works. You get the email sometime on the day there's a new post, but not as soon as the post is up. The registration box is located just below the Facebook icons on the right and above Recent Comments.
Update: Inmendham has responded to my critique with a four-part video beginning with this one:
Oh, and here are the notes of mine that I drew from in preparing for this video discussion, which were too long to add below the video on YouTube:
Inmendham’s Argument for Antinatalism:
Intelligence vs nature:
Intelligence informs us of the truth, thanks to science and philosophy, but reason comes with emotion and motive (thus Inmendham gets angry and doesn’t present mere logical arguments or calculations)
Nature includes our primitive psychology and religious dogmas which are parts of the evolutionary game we’re in, the game being genetic programming, natural selection, and the meaninglessness and horror of biological processes
The Game: (metaphors = chess, maze, lottery, tic tac toe, gladiator): the inefficient, wasteful, murderous conditions of natural life are odious, because there’s no victory or end of the game that justifies all of the sacrifice and suffering; the game is Life itself, as it reduces to consumption, reproduction, and cannibalism; we’re expendable pawns, sacrificing ourselves for the next generation, from the genes’ point of view; we’re machines, not free people, therefore little chance of stopping the game, since our force is outmatched and we’re programmed to like consumption and reproduction and competition
Intelligence vs the game: we’re too good for the game, because we’ve figured it out and it’s fit only for animals, but we’re stuck in it because of our animal nature; still, it’s better to rant against it, from a rational viewpoint, than to rationalize the game with happy-talk
The Equation: suffering is inherently bad and it outweighs pleasure; sentience is the only value in the universe (humanism contra nihilism) and it’s equally valuable in all creatures (thus vegetarianism and more horror than we can handle), but we’re stuck in a horrifying place and forced to play degrading roles in the Game; for every victor, hundreds suffer and lose and then the game starts all over with reproduction
Antinatalist Conclusion: the price paid for life to continue is objectively too high; rationally—based on utilitarianism—we should cease playing the Game, because life is morally unjustifiable (the pain we inevitably cause outweighs all the pleasure): stop reproducing and even prevent the dummies from doing so since they play God by throwing another sentient being into the jaws of nature; (metaphor: if we had the Start button, to create Earth and all biological life on it, knowing the horrors that that would cause, would we press it?); utopian/heavenly alternative (with no suffering) reduces us to even less dignified consumption-machines (infantilism) and makes life meaningless; moreover, this alternative couldn’t likely be brought into being, because we’re overpowered by monstrous natural forces; no grace or dignity in making the best out of the game, since that just apologizes for the horror
Ben Cain’s Response:
Evolutionary, Machiavellian vs Humanitarian, Modern Intelligence (philosophical/truth-oriented for its own sake, not pragmatic or egoistic): Inmendham assumes the latter, but that already shows that rebellion is possible and that rebellion is best explained by positing limited freedom/self-control
I agree that nature is mostly a horror, as is life, but the Game metaphor is flawed, since games are artifacts with prescriptive rules; given atheism, natural laws aren’t like social or conventional ones; this is also the problem with the Button thought experiment since the planet then would be an artifact, but it’s not one
Inmendham’s Consequentialism: he assumes the value of life depends on the result: since no good result, but just an endless cycle, therefore no justification of life; but no one knows how life will end; people have kids because they hope that natural processes are progressive (ex. transhuman singularity); Inmendham says that since no evidence of extraterrestrial life, we’ll probably fade out too, but this is dubious; maybe the aliens outgrew their technology or live in virtual worlds; so this assumption about the ultimate end of life isn’t rational; it’s just a speculation
Contra the Game: we’ve been playing a different game since we became self-aware; this is the game of culture, which speaks to our being more free than the other animals; we’re people rather than just animals, not just because we’re informed, thanks to science and philosophy, but because we can resist natural forces and do something relatively unnatural and anomalous, namely start a new game that’s regulated by prescriptive laws rather than natural ones; thus, we create cultures and the technosphere, precisely to escape from the horrors of wild nature: we’re civilized, not wild, although we often fail to live up to our potential, given our intelligence and self-control/autonomy
Inmendham’s Equation: when quantified, mental states are objectified and they lose their value; thus, the quantity of pains is irrelevant to their badness; also, suffering isn’t inherently bad, since some is deserved or it’s a means to an end, and suffering makes life meaningful, since otherwise we’d have the meaningless heaven/utopia; moreover, again the weighing of pleasure against pain is more speculation than calculation; no algorithm to arrive at the ratio; slippery slope from valuing sentient beings and their pleasures to valuing degrees of rebellion against horrible nature; thus, false dichotomy between participating in the game and ending the game by ending ourselves (AN), the third option being playing a new game
Contra Antinatalism (AN): I recommend a third option, one which differs from (1) playing the Game as sociopaths or as deluded enablers who can’t face the horror, and from (2) ending all life: the third option is to transcend the animalistic game, and that’s precisely what humans have been doing, bit by bit, for thousands of years; we’ve civilized ourselves, learned the truth, and decided not to live as animals; we’ve built houses and cities and nations, often regressing to insane and destructive animal behaviour, but nevertheless laying the foundations for more and more artificiality which transcends biology; moreover, religions have had ascetic movements, again for thousands of years, and ascetics have declined to play the Game without losing all respect for life (granted, ascetics would be pessimistic about nature, but Buddhists, for example, find bliss in contemplating the underlying unity of causes and effects, so that’s a third option which differs from AN’s ultra-pessimism); we follow social laws and moral codes, not just genetic programming; we do philosophy, because we’re free to care about the truth which is either irrelevant to our role in the evolutionary game or is even counterproductive to it (and is thus baffling without some freewill or autonomy from the game board)
Inmendham sees this when he gives credit to intelligence, since AN requires the utilitarian enlightenment, that is, knowledge of The Game and The Equation; but this puts him on a slippery slope to acknowledging the possibility of the Third Option, which is personhood, culture, mentality, artificiality, the technosphere, etc, which do make us godlike (if not necessarily wise enough to make all the suffering worthwhile in the end)